The holiday season is upon us, which can leave you feeling a little flustered and overwhelmed if you have little ones screaming, “I’m bored” every few minutes. Cooking and baking can be a great way to spend quality time with the kids while also getting them into the festive spirit.
There are several benefits to cooking with your child, including keeping them busy so they don’t drive you crazy! We’re diving into a few of our favourite benefits and tips for involving your little one in cooking activities.
The Benefits of Cooking With Your Little Ones
While getting your little ones into the kitchen can be a delicious way to keep them busy, when you do it in a Montessori way, it’s even better! Stepping into the kitchen provides an organic sensory experience for them. Smell, sight, sound and touch – it’s all there! Cooking also involves getting them to practice their fine motor skills, such as chopping, stirring, pouring and measuring. This allows them to fine-tune their motor skills and hand-eye coordination while giving you a helping hand in the kitchen.
One of the biggest principles in Montessori is the idea of encouraging independence. When you utilise the Montessori approach to cooking activities, you inspire your little ones to be independent and take responsibility for their tasks. Getting their hands dirty in the kitchen allows them to learn how to prepare simple meals, fostering a sense of independence and self-confidence. It also ensures you’ll have a little helper in the kitchen for all future cooking endeavours!
On top of this, cooking is a Practical Life Activity! These hands-on skills contribute to your child’s ability to take care of themselves and their environment throughout their life. While cooking may be the perfect way to get your child involved in whipping up something tasty for the festive season, the first step in Montessori cooking is to prepare the kitchen for you and your little one.
Preparing The Kitchen
Your kitchen is likely already prepared for you, so it’s essential you have the right tools for your child to get involved with the cooking process.
Invest in child-sized kitchen tools that are safe and easy for your little one to handle. This includes utensils, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and cutting tools designed for small hands.
Child-Safe Cooking Materials
Working with cooking materials such as glass bowls and cups can be a wonderful way for your child to learn how to be careful with certain materials, but it can leave both of you in tears when something breaks. If you want to avoid this, it’s best to use child-safe materials for the kitchen. Examples include non-breakable dishes, wooden utensils, and child-friendly knives with rounded edges for cutting soft ingredients.
High kitchen surfaces can make it difficult for your little one to help. Provide a sturdy step stool or learning tow for your child to independently and safely reach countertops. This helps them access the sink for washing their hands or reaching high kitchen surfaces for certain tasks.
Create Low Shelves and Storage
Within Montessori, there is a big emphasis on allowing your child to move freely without adult assistance. Therefore, arranging kitchen items on low shelves or in low drawers for your child to reach them easily is a great way to encourage independence. This also allows them to freely help out, as they have easy access to their own utensils and ingredients.
‘Tis the season to cook and bake! To ensure the experience is enjoyable, keep the following in mind:
Choose Age-Appropriate Tasks
Select cooking tasks that are suitable for your child’s age and developmental stage. Younger children can engage in activities like washing vegetables or stirring ingredients, while older children may handle tasks such as measuring or cutting soft ingredients with a child-safe knife.
Prepare Ingredients in Advance
To ensure a smooth cooking process with very few hiccups, it’s best to pre-measure the ingredients and set them up in individual bowls before involving your child.
Focus on the Process, Not Just the Result
While we all love munching on delicious gingerbread cookies during the holiday season, try to focus on something other than the end result. Encourage your child to enjoy each step, from preparing the ingredients to setting the table. Not every dish is going to be perfect. Teach your child to enjoy the activity of baking or cooking and not focus only on the result.
It’s essential that you embrace mistakes in the kitchen. Make sure your little one understands that spills and messes are part of the learning process. Encourage them to see this as an opportunity to learn and problem-solve rather than failing at a task.
Recipes to Get Into The Festive Spirit
Whether your child is a toddler still finding their feet or a preschool-aged kid ready for more responsibility, there’s a recipe for every developmental stage to help them get into the festive spirit.
Holiday Fruit Salad
A no fuss no muss recipe for a delicious snack. Prepare a festive fruit salad using seasonal ingredients such as apples, peaches, pineapple, watermelon or anything your heart desires. Allow your child to wash and cut softer fruits with their child-safe utensils before tossing everything in a bowl. Enjoy!
Who doesn’t love a shortbread biscuit during the holiday season? Butter, flour, and sugar are all the ingredients you need to bake this tasty treat. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them with your hands. This is a great sensory experience for your toddler, as they’ll love squeezing the dough. Make it fun by using cookie cutters in the shape of a Christmas tree, snowman or reindeer before popping it into the oven at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes (or until golden).
Christmas Tree Sandwiches
If you’re looking for a fun, festive lunch dish to cook with your child, this is it! Use a Christmas-tree-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the slices of bread. If you do not have a cookie cutter, you can simply use a knife to shape the bread slices into a Christmas tree. Add your filling or “decorations.” Cream cheese or peanut butter is always a great foundation for sandwiches, add a slice of turkey or chicken, followed by a delicious slice of cheese. Swap or add as many ingredients as you like!
Cooking and baking activities provide a wonderful way for your little ones to get messy in the kitchen, and a Montessori environment allows them to enjoy this safely. Not to mention it’s a great bonding experience for all involved. Happy cooking!